Do you have recurring knee pain? Examine how you’re standing
Thursday, January 23, 2020
Avoiding movements that tax your knee like high-impact sports won’t be enough if misalignment in your everyday posture is at the root of your recurring knee pain. Habits of poor alignment affect the entire body and knees are no exception. But identifying and correcting these habits isn’t easy.
To begin with, people tend to focus attention on where they feel pain, yet the problem often lies elsewhere, notes somatic movement educator Carolina Baronio.
“Everything we do with one part of the body affects the entire skeletal system,” she explains. “To correct problems, we have to be attuned to what is going on throughout the whole body.”
To guide you in shifting your alignment — or helping clients with theirs — Baronio shares three simple exercises based on the work of her teacher Mark Taylor, RSMT, author of “Embody the Skeleton: A Guide for Conscious Movement.”
Optimal support begins at the base with the foot
“Think of optimal alignment as a way of carrying the body that allows for the most effective movement with the least effort and the most plasticity,” says Baronio.
To find this, she recommends starting at the foundation — your feet. Examine the way your feet make contact with the floor because that will affect the whole body.
Distribute weight evenly on the foot by paying attention to the ball of the foot behind the big toe and smallest toe which should make firm contact with the ground. The second two points are the inner and outer edges of the heel often referred to as the four corners of the feet in yoga.
To increase awareness of relationship between feet and the floor along with mobility, place a small ball under the ball of foot and simply roll the foot side to side, alternating contact with the floor between the inner and outer edge of the foot. Before doing the second side, stand normally and observe the difference between how your feet contact the floor.
Developing strength and mobility in the foot through exercises and even walking barefoot have clear benefits. According to Daniel Lieberman, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, in a Time article, a weaker foot is prone to problems like flat feet, which is often associated with knee and low back pain.
Aligning the entire leg with plumb line test
When the bones are aligned, they can do the work they’re designed for, allowing muscles and joints to be at ease. A slight turn out of the foot, for example, can tax your knees over time.
To check for misalignment in the leg and foot, try the plumb line test: First, locate the head of the femur bone, usually at the midpoint of the leg crease, then from this point drop a weighted string long enough to hover above the foot.
With a partner or viewing in a mirror, check that the string passes through the midpoint of the knee and ankle joint then ends in line with the second toe.
If this is not happening for you, make small adjustments to how you’re standing until the string passes through these points. Become very aware of how these shifts feel in the body and take mental note so you’re able to repeat them until they become new habits.
Balancing the forces within the knee
Imbalanced forces within the knee is a key cause of chronic knee pain which can be resolved by correcting alignment, according to corrective exercise specialist and researcher Kjetil Larson on his blog.
Baronio demonstrates an easy way to observe how evenly you distribute effort in your knees when you stand. Place the tips of your (or a partner’s) thumb and index fingers on four points of the knee on the same horizontal plane as the head of the tibia, shown in the photo below.
Sense which points feel activated and which seem more passive. If you’re with a partner, indicate the less activated points. The person standing then works to activate the sleeping points until all feel equally activated. This may involve shifting weight in part of the foot or engaging muscles in the calf or thigh.
“Postural reeducation is slow meticulous work that should be taken very patiently,” says Baronio who encourages her students to value even the most subtle, minute shifts and observations. “Sometimes people try so hard to correct their alignment that they tighten other areas and inadvertent shift the problem to another joint.”
To avoid this tendency, stay very aware of the sensations throughout the body, not just in the area you’re trying to improve. This awareness paired with subtle adjustments over time will promote greater aliveness throughout and mobility to do your daily activities with more ease.
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